A violinist helped surgeons avoid damage to her brain during surgery to remove a tumour by playing her instrument, the UK hospital where she underwent the innovative procedure said.
Dagmar Turner, 53, a former management consultant from the Isle of Wight, was diagnosed in 2013 with a large grade 2 (slow growing) glioma after suffering a seizure during a symphony. The committed violinist, who plays in Isle of Wight Symphony Orchestra and various choral societies, underwent biopsy and then radiotherapy at her local specialist hospital to keep the tumour at bay. When it became apparent in autumn 2019 that the tumour had grown and become more aggressive Dagmar, who has a 13-year-old son, was keen for surgery to remove it.
Surgeons came up with the novel approach to ensure that areas of Dagmar Turner’s brain responsible for intricate hand movements were not affected during the precision procedure.
Professor Keyoumars Ashkan, consultant neurosurgeon at King’s College Hospital in south London, hit on the plan to protect vital cells located in the right frontal lobe of her brain.
The area is close to the part of the brain that controls the micro-movements of the left hand required to regulate a violin’s pitch and timbre.
The medical team proposed that Turner be woken up midway through the procedure so she could play and be monitored to make sure her coordination was not being affected.
Video footage of the operation showed Turner playing the violin as doctors monitored her movements on screens.
“We perform around 400 resections (tumour removals) each year, which often involves rousing patients to carry out language tests, but this was the first time I’ve had a patient play an instrument,” Ashkan said in a hospital statement on Tuesday.
“We managed to remove over 90 percent of the tumour, including all the areas suspicious of aggressive activity, while retaining full function in her left hand,” he added.
Turner said the “thought of losing my ability to play was heartbreaking”.
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